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Why Jerry Brown’s Water Plan Isn’t Serious

News of a water-sucking drought in California apparently j-u-u-ust came over the transom to our lawmakers mere seconds ago.

In response, our savvy Sacramento swashbuckling legislators have now taken out their mighty divining rods, put their ears to ground, put a wet finger in the air, assessed the political climate and determined that now is the time to rip up our lawns and shorten our showers — or else.

As any 5th grader can tell you, California is comprised of eleven different types of climates which can be simplified into four basic categories: Mediterranean Dry, Look at the Trees, Why Is it So Foggy Here, and, Hella Hot. The Mojave Desert is often the hottest place in the country in the summer. We’re in year four of a drought. But, as Tom Del Beccaro points out here in Forbes, we’re still ‘enjoying’ the wettest century California has had in 7,000 years. In short, the problem is not new.

The question then becomes, what have our elected leaders done about it?

Recently, lawmakers have spent time trying to put Sea World out of business, given money in energy grants to build solar arrays that make birds explode in mid-air — pfft! — incentivized people who aren’t even citizens of California (or the country) to come and receive ‘free’ stuff taken from taxpayers, and planned to spend $68 billion on a slo-mo train to nowhere.

Apparently legislators think money grows on the trees farmers haven’t been forced to rip out in the Central Valley for lack of water.

But instead of pointing at the budget priorities of the state he leads, instead of acknowledging the actual California climate, instead of wagging a reproving forefinger at the environmentalists who have driven the natural resources agenda which diverts water to bait fish over people, Governor Jerry Brown on Sunday blamed something else:

“I can tell you, from California, climate change is not a   hoax. We’re dealing with it, and it’s damn serious.”

Gov. Jerry Brown – Photo Credit Victoria Taft

… said the man who proposed the $68 billion choo choo but killed an $11 billion water storage bill proffered by State Senate Republicans in 2014 because it would ‘break the bank’.

Cue dead pac mac music.

Jerry Brown wants you to believe the cyclical California drought is new-and-worse-than-ever-and-how could he possibly have known? 

Let’s go to the tote board where a cursory check of expenditures yields these figures used for water programs in just the last few years:

2006: $660 million (flood diversion)

2014: $870 million

2014: (voters) $7.5 billion (only $2.7b of which would be used for water storage)

2015:  $20 mil from Feds to farmers

2015: $1billion (including for food baskets for workers in the Central Valley who have lost their jobs due to environmentalists succeeding in diverting water it for the restoration of the ‘delta smelt’ and ruining farms.)

People rightly wonder why the expended billions have not resulted in new reservoirs and desalination plants either started or in the pipeline. That’s because water for people, while a basic function of government, has been taken for granted.

Conservationists have done magnificent things to improve air and water quality in California, but as environmental advocacy has turned into Big Green, they’ve also stood in the way of getting water to people. Under environmental law, individuals have standing to bring lawsuits against anything. The environmental review process takes years to navigate and lawsuits add time and expense. The private desalination plant in Carlsbad was subjected to 14 lawsuits, for example. At long last, notwithstanding attempts to kill it by environmentalists, the plant is coming on-line in the fall — just in time to deliver more water to people.

Environmentalists have overseen the removal of 12 dams in the state from through 2014 in an attempt to return rivers back to their wild state, but that also potentially means less water for people.

Government inertia is also responsible for lack of water. While Governor Brown promises he’ll fast-track water projects this time under his executive order, his administration still hasn’t put in motion half the projects from Emergency Drought Relief passed by the legislature last year.

California also loses 10% of its water from leaky pipes, according to state figures. Last week, 82,000 gallons of water spilled from Santa Clarita after a series of earthquakes. Last July, a water main break near UCLA sent 20 million gallons down the drains along Sunset Boulevard.

Conserving water is the right thing to do, of course. I’ve lived in California on-and-off since the 1980’s and conservation efforts have been a part of the message from water departments since then, if not before. This is California, after all.

Short showers, turning off the water while I brush my teeth, re-using dog water to water plants, low flow everything are just part of life for me. I took those habits with me when I moved back to Oregon, where water is plentiful.

But I have a solution to ease the pain for citizens subjected to Brown’s deputizing of the water police to go after lawn waterers, car washers and people with green lawns.  While Brown is ripping up the earth to put in the slo-mo train to nowhere, he can count it against the 50 million square feet of lawns he demanded be ripped out to conserve water.

That’s something at least.

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